As the saying goes, “The only thing that stays the same is that things change.”
The world of work is ever evolving, and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and economic ups and downs are clear to see. Change has become a reliable constant, and, left unmanaged, it can quickly spread uncertainty and anxiety among your teams.
But how exactly do these large-scale changes affect your people today? What is the impact on your day-to-day? And how can you devise agile plans that equip you for what’s around the corner?
The answer lies in organizational change management strategies. By laying the groundwork now and planning for tomorrow’s unknowns, you can strengthen your organization’s resilience to change and support your teams as your business evolves—leading to positive outcomes for everyone.
What are change management strategies?
Organizational change management strategies are plans for how your business will navigate periods of transformation or transition.
Planned and followed correctly, they help you create positive outcomes as your organization evolves. They do this by supporting your people as they release their connection to the past system, accept the new practices, and reinforce an efficient way of working.
Why is change management important?
Change is inevitable, and resistance to change is a typical human reaction.
There are four main reasons why people resist organizational change:
- They fear they will lose their job or something of value to them
- They don’t understand the change or trust the person implementing it
- They can only see the costs of the change—and not the benefits
- They naturally have a lower tolerance for change and may doubt their ability to adapt successfully
Many managers and HR leaders make the mistake of underestimating the range and strength of feeling that change can trigger in their people.
That’s why having a detailed change management strategy in advance of events is so important. A solid and clear strategy can help you respond with empathy and clear communication. It can also help you guide your people through the kinds of changes they might instinctively resist.
Strategy planning: Seeing the forest and the trees
When you’re looking at your change management plans, it’s important to consider all the levels of impact. The major shifts we’ve experienced in recent years have had repercussions throughout organizational structures and even the industries they operate in.
That means you need to consider both the big picture and the fine details when building your change management strategies:
- Macro-level strategies might cover pandemic response, economic changes, political considerations, technological advances, and significant market trends.
- Micro-level strategies might include your management of promotions and resignations within your teams, as well as business decisions that affect the day-to-day, such as workflow changes, moving offices, and cybersecurity policies.
How can you embed change management into your organization?
There are many different types of change management strategies across all levels of your organization. But there are a few key tactics that apply in the majority of cases. Here are our top tips for avoiding the major pitfalls and keeping your people happy:
Provide change management training
Managers are on the front lines when it comes to dealing with your people’s response to change. In-depth training on what to expect from their team members, addressing fears or concerns, and delivering a positive outcome from change can go a long way.
But don’t stop there—if your change is a new technology or way of working, make sure everyone–from company leadership to individual contributors–gets the training they need.
Have a clear plan
It almost goes without saying, but it’s never advisable to approach a significant organizational shift unprepared.
Build a plan for each kind of change your business is likely to face (both planned and unplanned), and define which policies or changes will likely take effect in each of these circumstances.
Be honest and transparent
Clear, open, and honest communication is one of the central pillars of good HR management. Addressing concerns or fears early is one of the best ways of reducing resistance to change.
With change management, however, it can be tempting to keep your cards close to your chest. Resist the urge, and communicate frequently and openly with your people. That means creating a roadmap and holding regular meetings (such as daily stand-ups, monthly full-team sessions, and weekly one-on-ones).
These practices will reinforce transparency and make it easier to keep everyone informed about what’s happening within your company and put it in the context of what’s happening in the outside world (e.g., COVID).
Understand that change takes time
In recent years we’ve become accustomed to major shifts happening suddenly. But organizational change can take time, even when things around you move quickly.
Don’t rush things for the sake of it. Instead, make sure you lay the correct foundations to support the longevity of the changes you make—that way, you’ll also avoid flip-flopping between different strategies and help people feel more stable.
Involve your people
Letting people into your change management process empowers them and reduces resistance. Offer individuals and teams the chance to provide feedback on decisions (both past and future) and to become directly involved in implementing changes where appropriate.
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Measure the effectiveness of your plans
Consider using a Human Resource Information System (HRIS) that can help you automate and track data on team happiness, performance, growth, retention, and much more. That way, you can evaluate your plans’ effectiveness and make improvements to them along the way.
Business stability and resilience take agility
The future of HR leadership is all about responsiveness. Regular collaboration with company management will help you adapt and adjust on a daily basis, as will keeping track of the data you need to see the lay of the land.
Growing through doing and setting a tone of flexibility and teamwork are the real secrets to any successful change management strategy—no matter what lies ahead.